Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Rufus Wainwright

  • Rufus Wainwright [DreamWorks, 1998] B+
  • Poses [DreamWorks, 2001] ***
  • Want One [DreamWorks, 2003] *
  • Want Two [Geffen, 2004] B-
  • Release the Stars [Geffen, 2007] **
  • Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall [Geffen, 2007] ***

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Rufus Wainwright [DreamWorks, 1998]
Just like the daddy he so much doesn't want to grow up like, this mother's son is a born clown who hits the racks awash in poetry. Since he's also a mind-boggling original, however, next-big-thingers are sure to fib about the pleasures of his debut. He can write, and he'll write better; his voice has no obvious precedents, and he'll learn to define it. But for the nonce what he has to offer depends mostly on his piano, played to suggest amateur lieder or the accompaniment at rehearsals of Oklahoma!, and the compositional gift of a melodist whose songs seldom snap shut on a sure-shot refrain and incur no discernible debt to blues materials. Especially as embellished by Van Dyke Parks, whose nutball Americana has been waiting for Wainwright since Brian Wilson vacated the premises, his talent is too big to let pass. And if that doesn't make his hyperromanticism easier to take, there's no point being narrow-minded. Kate & Anna McGarrigle it ain't. But a hell of a lot more actualized than Loudon Wainwright III. B+

Poses [DreamWorks, 2001]
if he's not really a singer-songwriter, how come he always writes to the tune of his own voice? ("Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," "One Man Guy," "Greek Song") ***

Want One [DreamWorks, 2003]
Repays hard listening at modest interest ("Oh What a World," "Natasha") *

Want Two [Geffen, 2004]
Want One moved well-wishers to decry the evil corporation that forbade its prestige artiste to pile all the post-rehab "songs" he recorded with Björk hand Marius deVries onto one glorious double CD. But had any of them actually heard the lachrymosities he saved for part two? Get Jon Brion in here quick, Van Dyke Parks even, "The Art Teacher" is worth saving. His mom will still love him, that's something--thank God for her cameo. For less sanguine admirers, however, this is too classical, too romantic, and too I-yam-what-I-yam all at once. B-

Release the Stars [Geffen, 2007]
To prove he can, he sets just one of this career-topping aggregation of florid melodies to electric guitars, and damn my heterosexual ears for liking it best ("Between My Legs," "Nobody's Off the Hook"). **

Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall [Geffen, 2007]
A guy for whom well-made pop songs have serious disciplinary advantages ("Puttin' on the Ritz," "You Made Me Love You/For Me and My Gal/The Trolley Song"). ***

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